Choosing the Right Type of Dog Collar

If you are looking for the right collar and leash for your dog or puppy, you will probably be overwhelmed by the wide range of collars one is offering.  There are many different choices you have to make when deciding on a collar for your dog: the type, the size, the material etcetera. In addition, some collars have flashy collars, fancy designs or can be personalized in a cute way but choosing the best for your dog isn’t about style…

An appropriate collar is crucial for your dog’s health, as well as yours, especially if you have a large, strong dog. Imagine your dog sees a cat, starts running and pulls on the leash… This can seriously injure your dog’s neck and … your shoulder.

Not every collar is suitable for every dog but how do you make the right choice then?

How do you determine which collar is the most appropriate for you and your dog?

Which type of collar you need, depends on your dog.

In this article, we list up a number of tips you can take into account when choosing the right collar.


A flat collar


The most common and most traditional collar is the flat collar. You can find flat collars at almost every pet store. They are made of leather or nylon. The most important advantage of this collar is that it is totally adjustable which means it can grow with your dog. As these collars are a little bit wider, they do not move constantly around the neck of your dog what’s also a plus. When fitting, make sure that the collar is positioned relatively high around the neck of your dog and that you can put 2 fingers in between the collar and your dog’s neck.

If you have a small puppy then it is better to take off the collar of your pup if he walks around the house or garden unsupervised or when he is alone at home. A collar can always be a risk for a very curious and all-discovering pup.

If your dog spends a lot of time outside, you can also try a breakaway collar.


A breakaway collar


This type of collar can be suitable for dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors without supervision. These collars are designed to “break away” when your dog is in danger, for example when he gets hooked on to something when you are not there. As soon as your dog starts pulling, the plastic clasp will loose so that your dog does not risk strangling himself. Double rings allow you to use this collar also with a leash (not recommended for tie-outs). You use your leash to hold the 2 rings together so it can never come apart.

Even if the collar breaks away, your dog won’t be able to run away because of this safety feature. Just like the flat collars, you can adjust their length so the collar can grow with your dog.


Martingale collar


Martingale collars were initially designed for dogs whose heads are more narrow than their necks – like greyhounds for instance.  Nowadays these collars are becoming more and more popular amongst other breeds as well as these collars provide more control than a standard flat collar, and prevent dogs from backing or slipping out. A martingale collar looks similar to a flat collar but exists of two loops. The larger loop is slipped onto the dog’s neck. The leash is clipped to the smaller loop with the ring. When the dog pulls, the tension on the leash pulls the small loop taut, which in turn pulls the larger loop tighter.

It is recommended using martingale collars only on walks and removing them while at home. Because of the loose design, the collar can easily get caught on something which can be very dangerous for your dog.

Martingale collars exist in different widths. It is important to purchase a collar that is suitable for your dog. Besides the right size, it is important to properly fit the collar to your dog’s neck. If not used correctly, a martingale collar can be dangerous for your dog. If adjusted properly,  the martingale collar can only tighten to a certain degree and no further. This ensures your dog isn’t choked.

Although martingale collars are an easy way of having more control over your dog, do not use them as an alternative for leash walking training. Martingales were developed for safely walking dogs who may otherwise slip or back out of a traditional collar. They’re not meant as a walking aid for dogs who pull. If your dog pulls nonstop, he will have a constantly-tight collar. Constant tightness is not good for your dog. If your dog pulls nonstop, you need to train his walking skills and not just change his collar. Most dogs are able to comfortably walk with a normal collar with adequate training.


Choke and prong collar


Choke and prong collars are made of chain material. They tighten around your dog’s neck when you pull on the leash. Choke and prong collars have no limit to how tightly they can constrict. The “idea” is to “correct” the dog by causing him pain any time he pulls on the leash. This type of corrections may stop the pulling at that particular moment, but it will not change the dogs’ behavior. Choke and prong collars are inhumane. Do not use them!


Head collar


A head collar is a collar that is put around your dog’s nose and head. Because the point you pull the leash is much farther forward than with a normal collar, less force is needed to guide your dog. The 3 most popular types of head collars are: Gentle Leader, Halti, and Control Ease.  Headcollars exists in different sizes to fit most dogs.

With a head collar, your dog is still able to open his mouth to eat and drink and it should not cause him any pain or discomfort. Therefore it is crucial the collar is fitted correctly!

A head collar is an effective way to train your dog to walk calmly without pulling the leash. With a head collar, you will have more control over your dog, but it will not solve the problem. Because there is much more control, it is possible to work with your dog in a quieter manner, giving you the chance to solve existing problems in a positive way.

However, if the use of a head collar is not combined with adequate training to resolve the problem, within a few months your dog will have developed a thick muscular neck and will drag you in all directions again. A head collar is, therefore, no panacea, but a training aid.

Finally, it must be very clear that a head collar is not a correction method. You may NEVER pull on a head collar!! Each time you pull on the leash, your dog’s nose is pulled down what’s not good for your dog’s neck. If you pull hard, you can seriously injure your dog’s neck or back. Start using a head collar only under the guidance of an instructor who has experience with this!


A Harness


If you want to avoid the pressure on your dog’s neck, you can consider using a harness.

A standard collar is perfect during training sessions as you constantly have the attention of your dog while doing some exercises. At other times however, during walks for instance, your dog can suddenly see something he wants to follow. With a normal collar, he will get a sudden blow to his neck. A dog’s neck, just like a human’s neck, is not naturally resistant to this kind of shocks and can be permanently injured.

With a harness, you do not only have better control over your dog, but it is also healthier for your own arms and back. With a harness you can, with less effort, redirect your dog’s entire body. As such and in contrary to what many people think, a harness discourages your dog from pulling the leash.

When your dog is wearing a normal collar and pulls on the leash, he probably will succeed moving forward, perhaps just a few steps in the direction he wants to go. As such, his pulling was successful. With a harness, you can hold and redirect him more easily. Your dog will learn that pulling will not get him where he wants.

There are a lot of different kinds of harnesses on the market. Most harnesses are attached between the shoulder blades, with clicks on the back, others are attached to the chest. Always make sure the harness you choose is well tailored and not pinching.

It is recommended to take the harness off at home.